A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN 329 away from the crowd and screwing up his eyes as if to protect them from a sharp wind. The people began to disperse, but in that instant a plane glided over the edge of the wood as noiselessly as a shadow, its wheels just grazing the tops of the trees. Like an apparition it glided over the people's heads, over the ground, and as if drawn to it touched the grass with all three wheels. A dull thud, the crunching of gravel and the swish of grass were heard, which was unusual, for airmen never hear it owing to the noise their engines make when they land. All this was so sudden that nobody realised what had happened, although it was the most ordinary thing: a plane landed, and it was "No. 11", the very one they had all been waiting for so anxiously. "It's him!" somebody shouted in an hysterical, un- natural voice, and at once all awoke out of their stupor. The plane finished its run and came to a standstill at the very edge of the airfield, in front of the wall of young, curly, white-barked birch-trees that were lit up in the orange-coloured rays of the setting sun. Again nobody rose from the cockpit. People rushed to the machine as fast as they could, panting, and filled with foreboding. The colonel ran ahead of them all, jumped on to the wing, drew back the hood and looked into the cockpit. Meresyev was sitting there, bare-headed, his face as white as a summer cloud, and with a smile on his bloodless, greenish lips. Two streams of blood trickled down his chin from his bitten lip. "Alive? Are you hurt?" Meresyev smiled weakly and looking at the colonel with dead tired eyes answered: "I'm all right. I was just scared.,.. For about six: kilometres I hadn't a drop left." The airmen crowded round the plane, noisily congra- tulating Alexei and shaking his hand. "Go easy chaps, you'll break that wing off! You mustn't do that! Let me get out!" Alexei chided them with a smile. At that moment, from below the crowd of heads that were hovering over him, he heard a familiar voice, but so faint that it seemed to come from very far: "Alyosha, Alyosha!" 22-187?